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Does Africa Need a Cultural 
Adjustment Program? 


The indicators of Africa's plight are staggering: 

• Life expectancy is below sixty years in twenty-eight countries. Life 
expectancy is below fifty years in eighteen countries. Life expectancy 
in Sierra Leone is just thirty-seven years. 

• About half of the more than 600 million people south of the Sahara 
live in poverty. 

• Half or more of the adult populations of at least thirteen countries 
are illiterate. 

• Half or more of women are illiterate in at least eighteen countries. 

• Children under five die at rates in excess of 100 per 1,000 in at least 
twenty-eight countries. In Sierra Leone, the rate is 335 per 1,000. 

• The population growth rate is 2.7 percent annually, almost four times 
the rate in the high-income countries. 

• Among countries supplying such data to the World Bank (not all do), 
some of the most inequitable income distribution patterns are found 
in Africa. The most affluent 10 percent account for about 47 percent 
of income in Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, and about 43 
percent in Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. 1 



• And, obviously, democratic institutions are commonly weak or 
nonexistent throughout Africa. 

Even in the face of all this human suffering, I cannot resist citing the story 
of an African government minister carried away in his remarks: "When we 
gained power, the country was at the edge of the abyss; since, we have taken 
a great step forward!" 

I cite this anecdote in part because we can no longer reasonably blame the 
colonial powers for our condition. Several decades have passed during which 
we have been in substantial control of our own destiny. Yet today Africa is 
more dependent than ever on rich countries, more vulnerable than any other 
continent to maneuvers aimed at giving with one hand and taking back with 
the other. The World Bank, usually a great source of funds and advice, is it- 
self short of ideas. Other than structural adjustment programs (whose effi- 
ciency has not yet been proven), there is silence. 

The need to question our culture, the African culture, is evident. But what 
characterizes the African culture? Is this culture compatible with the de- 
mands faced by individuals and nations at the beginning of the twenty-first 
century? If not, what cultural reorientation is necessary so that in the concert 
of nations we are no longer playing out of tune? Does Africa need a cultural 
adjustment program? 


It is never easy to speak of one's self, to reveal one's soul, especially when, as 
is the case with the African soul, many different facets present themselves. 
There are at least three dangers in this. The first is idealizing and embellish- 
ing in order to appear to be more than we are. The second is to say nothing 
that exposes the mysterious halo that people from all cultures wear. Finally, 
who has the qualities and qualifications to speak in the name of us all? An 
African proverb is correct in saying that he who looks from the bottom of a 
well sees only a portion of the sky. 

As legitimate as these concerns are, they should not prevent us from look- 
ing in the mirror. Do we dare to look ourselves in the face, even if it is diffi- 
cult to recognize ourselves? 

Fifty Africas, a Single Culture? 

We long ago got into the habit of referring to Africa as a diverse entity, 
and no one is surprised, in light of the balkanization of the continent, to 
see works with titles like Les 45 Afriques 1 or Les 50 Afriques 3 because, as 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 


J. Ki-Zerbo noted in the introduction to the latter, "Africa is palpable. It is 
also profitable." 

The descriptions of African diversity are enough to make an Olympic skat- 
ing champion dizzy. First, to better oppose them, we like to emphasize white 
Africa and black Africa: one north of the Sahara and the other south of it. 
But how do we then classify the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe, 
each with a powerful white minority? Behind the racial screen, one quickly 
discovers a far more important source of diversity — language. There is an 
Arabophone Africa, an Anglophone Africa, a Francophone Africa, a Luso- 
phone Africa, a Hispanophone Africa, not to mention the scores of languages 
that have no relation to the languages of the European colonizers. 

What can be said if we then dare to transcend frontiers resulting from 
colonial dismembering of real nationalities such as the Yorubas, Hausas, 
Peuls, Malinkes, to mention only a few, that straddle several states? To con- 
tinue the census of African diversity based on the color of the epidermis or 
on language could lead to several thousand Africas! Next, we must confront 
the anthropologists. Are there as many cultures in Africa as there are tribes? 
Does their number coincide with the states as outlined by the colonial pow- 
ers? Does generalizing about African culture as a whole make any sense at 

I believe that it does. The diversity — the vast number of subcultures— is 
undeniable. But there is a foundation of shared values, attitudes, and institu- 
tions that binds together the nations south of the Sahara, and in many re- 
spects those to the north as well. The situation is analogous to that of Great 
Britain: Despite its Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish subcultures, no one 
would question the existence of a British culture. 

The existence of this common base is so real that some anthropologists 
question whether imported religions — Christianity and Islam — have really 
affected African ancestral beliefs or given Africans different ways of under- 
standing the contemporary societies in which they live. Modern political 
power has often assumed the characteristics of traditional religious ritual 
powers; divination and witchcraft have even made their way into court- 
houses. Everywhere on the continent, the bond between religion and society 
remains strong. As Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the late president of the Ivory 
Coast, told us (and he, as a Roman Catholic, knew what he was talking 
about): "From African archbishops to the most insignificant Catholic, from 
the great witch doctor to the most insignificant Moslem, from the pastor to 
the most insignificant Protestant, we have all had an animist past." 4 

African culture is not easily grasped. It refuses to be packaged and resists 
attempts at systemization. The following typology is not wholly satisfactory, 
but it gives some sense of what the African cultural reality is. 



Hierarchical Distance 

In the view of D. Bollinger and G. Hofstede, hierarchical distance — the de- 
gree of verticality — is generally substantial in tropical and Mediterranean cli- 
mates, where the survival of the group and its growth depend less on human 
intervention than it does in cold and temperate countries. 5 In countries with 
substantial hierarchical distances, the society tends to be static and politically 
centralized. What little national wealth exists is concentrated in the hands of 
an elite. The generations pass without significant change in mind-set. It is the 
reverse in countries with short hierarchical distances. Technological changes 
happen because the group needs technical progress; the political system is de- 
centralized and based on a representative system; the national wealth, which 
is substantial, is widely distributed; and children learn things that their par- 
ents never knew. 

In the more horizontal cultures, subordinates believe that their superiors 
are people just like themselves, that all people have equal rights, and that law 
takes precedence over strength. This leads to the belief that the best way to 
change a social system is to redistribute power. In the more vertical societies, 
Africa among them, subordinates consider their superiors to be different — 
having a right to privilege. Since strength prevails over law, the best way to 
change a social system is to overthrow those who hold power. 

To the extent that it covers many aspects of a society (e.g., political sys- 
tems, religious practices, organization of enterprises), hierarchical distance 
would virtually suffice to explain underdevelopment. However, as Bollinger 
and Hofstede note, France, Italy (particularly in the south), and Japan are 
also countries of high hierarchical distance. 

Control over Uncertainty 

Some societies condition their members to accept uncertainty about the fu- 
ture, taking each day as it comes. There is little enthusiasm for work. The be- 
havior and opinions of others are tolerated because deep down people feel 
relatively secure in the status quo. 

In other societies, people are acculturated to conquer the future. This leads 
to anxiety, emotionalism, and aggressiveness, which produce institutions ori- 
ented toward change and the limitation of risks. 

Africa, except for the southern tip of the continent, appears to belong en- 
tirely to the category of societies with weak controls over uncertainty. To cre- 
ate secure societies, three levers are available: technology, jurisprudence, and 
religion. We might say that African societies are societies of strong control 
over uncertainty; unfortunately, the control is exercised only through reli- 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 

6 9 

gion. In the final analysis, if Africans immerse themselves in the present and 
demonstrate a lack of concern for tomorrow, it is less because of the safety of 
community social structures that envelop them than because of their submis- 
sion to a ubiquitous and implacable divine will. 

The African, returning to the roots of religion, believes that only God can 
modify the logic of a world created for eternity. The world and our behavior 
are an immutable given, bequeathed in a mythical past to our founding an- 
cestors, whose wisdom continues to illuminate our life principles. The 
African remains enslaved by his environment. Nature is his master and sets 
his destiny. 

This postulate of a world governed by an immutable divine order in a uni- 
verse without borders is accompanied by a peculiarly African perception of 
the notion of space and time. 

The Tyranny of Time 

The African sees space and time as a single entity. The Nigerians say, "A 
watch did not invent man." Africans have always had their own time, and 
they have often been criticized for it. As an example, Jean-Jacques Servan- 
Schreiber writes: 

Time in Africa has both a symbolic and cultural value that are very important 
in the manner in which it is lived and felt. This is frankly both a benefit and a 
handicap — a benefit to the extent that it is satisfying for individuals to live dur- 
ing a period at a rhythm that is their own and that they have no desire to give 
up. But it is also a handicap to the extent that they are in competition with 
countries that do not have the same work methods and for which competition 
at the level of productivity, for example, passes through a more rational use of 
time. 6 

Servan-Schreiber is right. In traditional African society, which exalts the 
glorious past of ancestors through tales and fables, nothing is done to pre- 
pare for the future. The African, anchored in his ancestral culture, is so con- 
vinced that the past can only repeat itself that he worries only superficially 
about the future. However, without a dynamic perception of the future, there 
is no planning, no foresight, no scenario building; in other words, no policy 
to affect the course of events. There can be no singing of tomorrows so long 
as our culture does not teach us to question the future, to repeat it mentally, 
and to bend it to our will. In modern society, everyone must prepare. Other- 
wise, as Servan-Schreiber reminds us, there will be no more seats on the 
train, no more money at the end of the month, nothing in the refrigerator for 


the dinner hour, and nothing in the granaries in between seasons. 7 All in all, 
daily life in Africa! 

Indivisible Power and Authority 

Over the course of several millennia, societies in the West evolved substan- 
tially outside of the influence of religion, leading to the separation of the 
things of this world from the spiritual world. This evolution also led to the 
advent of the power of the state, which was certainly still spiritual but de- 
tached from supernatural forces that no longer intervened in the governing of 
this world. In Africa, however, the force of religion continues to weigh both 
on individual and on collective destiny. It is common for African leaders to 
claim magical powers. 

It is difficult to explain African passivity other than by the fear inspired by 
a God hidden in the folds of the clothes of every African chief. If a king or 
president escapes an attack (even a simulated one), the entire population will 
deduce that he has supernatural power and is therefore invincible. This 
propensity to equate all power with divine authority does not concern only 
the "fathers of the nation"; it affects every citizen — even the most ordinary — 
as soon as he is given any authority whatsoever. Take an African, give him a 
bit of power, and he will likely become bumptious, arrogant, intolerant, and 
jealous of his prerogatives. Constantly on his guard and an enemy of compe- 
tence (not a criterion for electing gods), he is ruthless until an inopportune 
decree designates his successor. He ends his career entirely devoted to the cult 
of mediocrity. (It is a well-known fact in our republics that to end the career 
of a technocrat or a politician for good, you need only point out his excel- 

The African will not accept changes in social standing: Dominant and 
dominated remain eternally in the places allocated them, which is why 
change in social classifications is often condemned. We complain about the 
difficulties in promoting the private sector in our states. These difficulties are 
rooted in the jealousy that dominates all interpersonal relations, which is less 
the desire to obtain what others possess than to prevent any change in social 

In Africa, you must be born dominant; otherwise, you have no right to 
power except by coup d'etat. The entire social body accepts, as a natural 
fact, the servitude imposed by the strong man of the moment. It has been ar- 
gued that the underdeveloped are not the people, they are the leaders. This is 
both true and false. If African peoples were not underdeveloped (that is to 
say, passive, resigned, and cowardly), why would they accept underdevel- 
oped leaders? We forget that every people deserves the leaders it gets. 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 


The Community Dominates the Individual 

If we had to cite a single characteristic of the African culture, the subordina- 
tion of the individual by the community would surely be the reference point 
to remember. African thought rejects any view of the individual as an au- 
tonomous and responsible being. The African is vertically rooted in his fam- 
ily, in the vital ancestor, if not in God; horizontally, he is linked to his group, 
to society, to the cosmos. The fruit of a family-individual, society-individual 
dynamic, all linked to the universe, the African can only develop and bloom 
through social and family life. 

How do we restore the degree of autonomy to the individual that is neces- 
sary for his affirmation as a political, economic, and social actor, while pre- 
serving this sociability that is the essence of the existence of the African? The 
suppression of the individual, the cardinal way of ensuring equality in tradi- 
tional societies, is demonstrated in all areas — not only in economic matters, 
where the ultimate market price is a function of the presumed purchasing 
power of the buyer, but in cultural matters, where oral traditions have mo- 
nopolized the transmission of culture. We might even wonder if it wasn't by 
design that Africans avoided the written word to assure the suppression of 
individualism. African thought avoids skepticism, another virus carried by 
the individual. Consequently, the established belief system remains absolute: 
As soon as ancestral beliefs are threatened, the only possible choice is be- 
tween the established order and chaos. 

The concept of individual responsibility does not exist in our hyper-cen- 
tralized traditional structures. In Cameroon, the word "responsible" trans- 
lates as "chief." Telling peasants that they are all responsible for a group 
initiative is to tell them therefore that they are all chiefs — which inevitably 
leads to endless interpersonal conflicts. 

The death of the individual in our societies explains not only the culture of 
silence in which men like President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana rise up but also 
explains the contempt in which people hold all those that occupy an interme- 
diate position in the hierarchy. Thus, in an African ministry, it is well under- 
stood that the only person who can solve any problem whatsoever, be it the 
most commonplace, is the minister himself. Supervisors, managers, and other 
officials are there only for show. Our ministers have no complaints. It is not 
good to delegate one's authority at the risk of encouraging the birth of a new 
political star who may eventually prove to be a competitor. 

We must be realistic. Tribalism blooms in our countries because of both 
the negation of the individual and the precariousness of his situation in the 
absence of an operative set of individual rights and responsibilities. Should 
we then continue, while dancing and singing, to drift collectively toward hell 



to safeguard a hypothetical social consensus? Or has the moment come to re- 
store all rights to individuals? 

Excessive Conviviality and Rejection of Open Conflict 

The African works to live but does not live to work. He demonstrates a 
propensity to feast that suggests that African societies are structured around 
pleasure. Everything is a pretext for celebration: birth, baptism, marriage, 
birthday, promotion, election, return from a short or a long trip, mourning, 
opening or closure of Congress, traditional and religious feasts. Whether 
one's salary is considerable or modest, whether one's granaries are empty or 
full, the feast must be beautiful and must include the maximum possible 
number of guests. 

He who receives gives, but he who is received also gives in order to truly 
participate in the joy or pain of his host. Sociability is the cardinal virtue of 
all human beings; indeed, the African considers any person he meets a friend 
until the contrary is demonstrated. Friendship comes before business; it is im- 
polite, in a business discussion, to immediately go to the crux of the matter. 
The African has an inexhaustible need for communication and prefers inter- 
personal warmth over content. This is the main reason for the inefficiency of 
African bureaucracies. Each petitioner, instead of writing, seeks to meet in 
person the official in charge of examining his file, thinking this eliminates all 
the coldness of writing letters back and forth. 

Differences that are the basis for social life elsewhere are not perceived or 
are ignored to maintain ostensible social cohesion. It is the search for social 
peace based on a shaky unanimity that pushes the African to avoid conflict — 
although the continent is surely not free of it. In some African societies, the 
avoidance of conflict means that justice cannot be rendered in the daytime. 
In some Bamileke (West Cameroon) villages, the constituted bodies in charge 
of security and justice are secret and meet at night. Members wear masks to 
prevent being identified. 

Conflict is inherent in human groups of whatever size, yet we try to sweep 
it under the rug — and have been highly unsuccessful in doing so. 

Inefficient Homo Economicus 

In Africa, what classifies man is his intrinsic value and his birth. If the 
African is not very thrifty, it is because his vision of the world attributes very 
little importance — too little — to the financial and economic aspects of life. 
Other than some social groups like the well-known Bamileke of Cameroon 
or the Kamba of Kenya, the African is a bad H. economicus. For him, the 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 


value of man is measured by the "is" and not by the "has." Furthermore, be- 
cause of the nature of the rapport that the African maintains with time, sav- 
ing for the future has a lower priority than immediate consumption. Lest 
there be any temptation to accumulate wealth, those who receive a regular 
salary have to finance the studies of brothers, cousins, nephews, and nieces, 
lodge newcomers, and finance the multitude of ceremonies that fill social life. 

It should not come as a surprise that the urban elite embellish these spend- 
ing traditions by behaving like nouveaux riches. They, of course, have access 
to large amounts of money, chiefly in government coffers, and to the relatives 
and friends who are the beneficiaries of our free-spending habits are added 
banks in Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Bahamas. African governments 
are not, it is evident, any better at economic management than are African 
individuals, as our frequent economic crises confirm. 

The High Costs of Irrationalism 

A society in which magic and witchcraft flourish today is a sick society ruled 
by tension, fear, and moral disorder. Sorcery is a costly mechanism for man- 
aging conflict and preserving the status quo, which is, importantly, what 
African culture is about. Therefore, is not witchcraft a mirror reflecting the 
state of our societies? There is much to suggest this. Witchcraft is both an in- 
strument of social coercion (it helps maintain and perhaps even increase the 
loyalty of individuals toward the clan) and a very convenient political instru- 
ment to eliminate any opposition that might appear. Witchcraft is for us a 
psychological refuge in which all our ignorance finds its answers and our 
wildest fantasies become realities. 

Contrary to what some might believe, the Christian religion, far from 
putting an end to witchcraft in Africa, has legitimized it. The existence of Sa- 
tan is recognized by the Bible and the White Fathers, thus confirming the ex- 
istence of sorcerers and other evil persons. 

Sects, usually based on the magical power of the leader or prophet, are 
proliferating in Africa. In Benin, a particularly religious land that is the cra- 
dle of Haitian and Brazilian voodoo, fifty-eight new sects were born between 
1981 and 1986, bringing the total number of denominations in the country 
to ninety-two. In Kenya, there might be as many as 1,200 sects; in some rural 
districts, there are more churches than schools. Some prophets, their "tem- 
ples" on the street, become affluent because of their ability to detect bad spir- 
its. Others can protect against disease. Still others can help you protect your 
job and enhance your income. 

An example I particularly like is that of Kombo, a transporter with a fleet 
of trucks serving the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Kombo believes that to 



European precautions — the regular maintenance of vehicles — it is necessary 
to add African precautions. What do these include? Well, his witch doctor 
gives him some porcupine-fish powder that he pours into his tires in order to 
prevent punctures. Why, you might ask? Because, when attacked, this thorny 
fish has the ability to inflate until it doubles in volume. The powder of this 
fish is therefore perfect for maintaining tire pressure. 

Sorcery also extends to government. Witch doctors surround African pres- 
idents, and nothing that really matters in politics occurs without recourse to 
witchcraft. Occult counselors, responsible for assuring that authorities keep 
their power by detecting and neutralizing possible opponents, have power 
that the most influential Western advisers would envy. The witch doctors of- 
ten amass fortunes, and they sometimes end up with official designations, en- 
joying the direct exercise of power. 

Football, the opiate of Africans, competes with politics with respect to sor- 
cery. The story made the rounds that the Elephants of Abidjan lost their 
match against Egypt for the African Cup because the captain of the team lost 
a magic charm on the field a little before half time. The entire team searched 
for it in vain. Everyone believed that the Egyptians had found it and had 
made it disappear. Thanks to this deceit, they won the match, two goals to 

The fact that Africa is not alone in celebrating irrationalism at the outset 
of the twenty-first century does not excuse our propensity to delegate to sor- 
cerers and witch doctors the responsibility for solving our problems. Jean- 
Francois Revel has asked, "Might man be an intelligent being that 
intelligence does not guide?" 8 In my view, the African is the intelligent being 
that uses his intelligence least — so long as he is happy to live life as it comes. 
In an Africa that refuses to link knowledge and activity, our authentic cul- 
tural identity is operating when we say, as Revel notes, "Give us development 
in the form of subsidies, so as to spare us the effort of establishing an effi- 
cient relationship with reality." 9 That same culture lies behind our claim to 
the right to inefficiency in production, the right to corruption, and the right 
to disrespect basic human rights. 

Cannibalistic and Totalitarian Societies 

What Africans are doing to one another defies credulity. Genocide, bloody 
civil wars, and rampant violent crime suggest that African societies at all so- 
cial levels are to some extent cannibalistic. Those who write laws and those 
who are responsible for enforcing them are those who trample on them. 
Thus, in almost all African countries, the day after gaining independence, in- 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 


vestment codes designed to attract foreign investment were promulgated. Yet 
affluent Africans jostle each other at the counters of Swiss, French, Belgian, 
and English banks, giving the impression that they have no confidence in 
themselves, in their country, or in what they produce. They appear to destroy 
with their own hands what they have built. 

The truth quickly becomes apparent. Seen from the inside, African soci- 
eties are like a football team in which, as a result of personal rivalries and a 
lack of team spirit, one player will not pass the ball to another out of fear 
that the latter might score a goal. How can we hope for victory? In our re- 
publics, people outside of the ethnic "cement" (which is actually quite 
porous when one takes a closer look at it) have so little identification with 
one another that the mere existence of the state is a miracle — a miracle in 
part explained by the desire for personal gain. There is rarely any vision of a 
better future for all. At the same time, initiative and dynamism are con- 
demned as signs of personal enrichment. The sorcerer wants equality in mis- 
ery. There are numerous cases in which someone who has built a house has 
been told not to reside in it; others who have begun construction have been 
told to stop the work if they value their lives. 

Was African totalitarianism born with independence? Of course not! It 
was already there, inscribed in the foundations of our tribal cultures. Author- 
itarianism permeates our families, our villages, our schools, our churches. It 
is for us a way of life. 

Thus, faced with such a powerful, immovable culture, what can we do to 
change Africa's destiny? We are condemned either to change or to perish. 


Our first objective is to preserve African culture, one of the most — if not the 
most — humanistic cultures in existence. But it must be regenerated through a 
process initiated from the inside that would allow Africans to remain them- 
selves while being of their time. We must keep these humanistic values — the 
solidarity beyond age classification and social status; social interaction; the 
love of neighbor, whatever the color of his skin; the defense of the environ- 
ment, and so many others. We must, however, destroy all within us that is 
opposed to our mastery of our future, a future that must be prosperous and 
just, a future in which the people of Africa determine their own destiny 
through participation in the political process. 

In doing so, we must be mindful that culture is the mother and that institu- 
tions are the children. More efficient and just African institutions depend on 
modifications to our culture. 



The Four Revolutions We Must Lead 

We need to undertake peaceful cultural revolutions in four sectors: educa- 
tion, politics, economics, and social life. 

Education. The traditional education of the African child prepares boys and 
girls for integration into their tribal community. To the child are transmitted 
not only the habits customary for his or her age and sex, but all the values and 
beliefs that are the cultural foundation of the group to which he or she be- 
longs. In a system in which education is perceived above all as an instrument 
of socialization, the traditional African child is educated by the entire commu- 
nity. The problem is that this system offers few incentives for children to im- 
prove themselves, to innovate, or to do better than their parents. 

How then can we reform educational systems so strongly handicapped by 
both a conservative culture and a lack of infrastructure and pedagogical fa- 
cilities? (It is, for example, not unusual for there to be 125 students in a sin- 
gle classroom.) Very simply, by asserting the absolute preeminence of 
education, by suppressing the construction of religious structures and other 
palaces to the detriment of schools, and by modifying the content of the cur- 
ricula, accenting not only science but especially the necessary changes of the 
African society. This means critical thinking, affirmation of the need for sub- 
regional and continental unity, rational development of manual as well as in- 
tellectual methods of work, and, in general, the qualities that engender 
progress: imagination, dissent, creativity, professionalism and competence, a 
sense of responsibility and duty, love for a job well done. 

The African school should henceforth mold future businesspeople, and 
therefore job creators, not just degree recipients who expect to be offered 
sinecures. From the time the child is in elementary school, the young African 
will have to be awakened to time management, not only in terms of produc- 
tion but especially in terms of maintenance of infrastructure and equipment. 
The teaching of technological maintenance is surely more important than 
courses on the role of the one-party system in national integration and on the 
infallibility of the "Father of the Nation." 

But change must not stop there. The role of the African woman — the 
abused backbone of our societies — in society must also be transformed. 
Women do not have access to bank accounts, credit, or property. They are 
not allowed to speak. They produce much of our food, yet they have little ac- 
cess to agricultural training, credit, technical assistance, and so on. 

In Africa as elsewhere, the emancipation of women is the best gauge of the 
political and social progress of a society. Without an African woman who is 
free and responsible, the African man will be unable to stand on his own. 

Does Africa Need a Cultural Adjustment Program? 


Politics. Once education has been reformed, African political systems will 
change virtually by themselves. A new type of citizenship will emerge, one that 
gives more room to the individual, his worth as a social actor, his ability to 
adapt to his institutional environment, and the demands that progress puts on 
his community. African nations need to extend the pluralism that already exists 
in the diversity of their peoples to the political arena. They must cultivate toler- 
ance and emphasize merit. Regional integration must replace nationalism. 

Economics. To revolutionize our economic culture, we must understand 
that instead of depending on a world market that we are virtually excluded 
from, we must first establish integrated markets among ourselves. We must 
accept profit as the engine of development. We must recognize the indispens- 
able role of individual initiative and the inalienable right of the individual to 
enjoy the fruits of his labor. We must understand that there can be no real or 
lasting economic growth without full employment. The entire African popu- 
lation must be put to work. It is impossible for anyone to be both unem- 
ployed and a good citizen, especially in countries with no social safety net. 

Social Life. African civil society will not emerge without qualitative 
changes in behavior, first in the relationships among Africans and then with 
respect to behavior toward foreigners, to whom we generally feel inferior. We 
must have more self-confidence, more trust in one another, and a commit- 
ment to a progress that benefits all. We need more rigor and a systematic ap- 
proach to the elaboration of strategies — and the implementation of decisions 
taken — whatever the costs. 


We are now at a crossroads. The persistence and destructiveness of the eco- 
nomic and political crises that have stricken Africa make it necessary for us 
to act without delay. We must go to the heart of our morals and customs in 
order to eradicate the layer of mud that prevents our societies from moving 
into modernism. We must lead this revolution of minds — without which 
there can be no transfer of technology — on our own. We must place our bets 
on our intelligence because Africans, if they have capable leaders, are fully 
able to distance themselves from the jealousy, the blind submission to the ir- 
rational, the lethargy that have been their undoing. If Europe, that fragment 
of earth representing a tiny part of humanity, has been able to impose itself 
on the planet, dominating it and organizing it for its exclusive profit, it is 
only because it developed a conquering culture of rigor and work, removed 
from the influence of invisible forces. We must do the same.